Sheila Brown

Ornelas Award winner Sheila Brown (right) celebrates with Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, after whose late husband the human relations award is named.

Ornelas Award winner Sheila Brown promotes cultural awareness

From Kwanzaa celebrations to a yearly multicultural dinner theater, the campus has broadened its appreciation of African-American and other cultures through the efforts of Sheila Brown, associate director of the Center for Multicultural and Academic Affairs.

Brown’s efforts have earned her the Miguel Ornelas Human Relations Award, given each year by the BGSU Human Relations Commission to an individual, a group or organization on campus whose programs, services or actions have significantly enhanced positive human relations at BGSU.

The award was presented at the Latino Issues Conference in April.

In her role at the center, Brown plays a significant part in helping acclimate students from a wide range of backgrounds into college life and the University. She is mentor to many African-American students and has long been involved in the Pre-College Enrichment Program.

But in addition to her performance of her regular duties, wrote Executive Vice President Linda Dobb in nominating Brown, “there are two particular reasons why I believe Sheila Brown should receive the Ornelas Award, and these are connected with her intense efforts each year creating a Kwanzaa celebration on campus and each year directing the multicultural dinner theater. Sheila's efforts at holiday time make it possible for students, faculty and staff to experience a holiday and its traditions that they may not be familiar with. This past December, for example, Sheila not only coordinated a Kwanzaa dinner but also had an exhibit from the traveling Black History Museum and a speaker on the significance of African-American history in Ohio's past. Sheila's efforts can help us all introduce a new culture in a very fun and upbeat way to students who may have grown up in very un-diverse settings.”

Dobb described the multicultural dinner theater, which Brown has directed for the past seven years, as a “vast undertaking.” Working with more than 100 performers, technicians and musicians, Brown puts together a two-hour show that easily fills the Lenhart Grand Ballroom in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union for both its yearly performances.

“The dinner theater is an event like no other because of the free range of expression it permits in a lively, yet well-controlled setting,” Dobb said.

“Sheila's work is always creative and brings out the creativity in others,” she went on. “Its impact is felt long after those who perform or witness the event. Sheila reminds us that we do try to encourage diversity in every aspect of our campus life and she helps us celebrate it. We are fortunate to have such a talented, spirited and intelligent woman working with our students and on behalf of the University.”

The award is given in honor of Dr. Miguel Ornelas, a former Human Relations Commission member and director of affirmative action at BGSU. Before his death in 1989, Ornelas served as an advocate for issues of diversity, as head of the Ohio Hispanic Institute of Opportunity and as a member of the University's Graduate Student Senate, Third World Graduate Association and La Union de Estudiantes Latinos. He was the recipient of the first Hispanic Award from Project Search.
May 15, 2006